NEW YORK (AP) — Wal-Mart Stores Inc. said Wednesday it is cutting jobs in accounting and other back-office positions at about 500 locations in the Western region of the U.S.
The move will affect two or three people per store, totaling as many as 1,500 workers, Wal-Mart spokesman Kory Lundberg said. But those employees are expected to be offered positions that will involve direct contact with shoppers, such as working in the online pickup department or as pharmacy technicians.
The goal is to get workers out of the backrooms and onto the selling floor where they can interact more closely with customers, Lundberg said.
As part of the strategy, the world's largest retailer and the nation's largest private employer is centralizing the invoice department for that region, and it's also using "cash recycler" machines that will automatically count money.
Wal-Mart tested the program in 50 stores in the Western region and found that just 1 percent of the affected workers left the company, Lundberg said.
"What we are doing is taking the complexities out of old cumbersome jobs and simplifying things in the store," Lundberg said. "How can we get the focus less on the backroom jobs?"
It comes as Wal-Mart is trying to improve customer service as a way to boost sales in the face of increased competition from all fronts, including from online leader Amazon.com. Wal-Mart has been working hard to declutter the stores and pull workers out of stock rooms and onto store floors. It's also in its second year of a $2.7 billion investment in wage increases and training for its hourly employees.
Earlier this year, the company, based in Bentonville, Arkansas, said it was shuttering 154 stores in the U.S., a rare pruning on its home turf. It was part of an overall move to shutter 269 stores worldwide.
Wal-Mart has about 1.4 million workers at its more than 4,500 namesake stores in the U.S.
The job cuts were first reported Wednesday by The Wall Street Journal online.
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